Recognition and Liquid Authority

Publisert: 22. apr. 2017

To analyze how authority emerges, become institutionalized, and may be transformed, we are best served with a concept of authority that highlights its dynamic features, and that captures the multiplicity of actors involved in producing and sustaining it. Extant accounts tend to operate with a view of ‘solid’ authority, but such a concept of authority is mainly descriptive, not explanatory. A turn to the liquid features of authority is not only better suited to account for global authority, but also for those pockets of ‘solid’ authority that we can find in the global or international sphere. I develop an account of authority that draws selectively from some of Bourdieu’s core concepts and highlight the inherently relational aspect of authority. Authority, I submit, is based on actors’ search for recognition. Such a perspective is better able to account for how authority emerges and may stabilize as ‘solid,’ and also be transformed over time. I draw on examples from the World Health Organization and the UN Security Council to illustrate the argument.